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Losing More Than Your Home . Homelessness examined through a grief and loss perspective. Dalia Pisk and Jacqueline Millar. Understanding Homelessness. Homelessness has been referred to as "one of the most sombre and distressing social problems of current society"

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Losing More Than Your Home

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losing more than your home

Losing More Than Your Home

Homelessness examined through a grief and loss perspective

Dalia Pisk and Jacqueline Millar

understanding homelessness
Understanding Homelessness
  • Homelessness has been referred to as "one of the most sombre and distressing social problems of current society"

(MacKnee& Mervyn, 2002).

“ However, most of us don’t just think of our home as merely a place of shelter. Usually, a home is not just a house, it represents family and friendship and social connections with other human beings.”(Reynolds, 2007)

definition of homelessness
Definition of Homelessness

The First Home:

  • This is ‘the self’ the characteristics of this home are physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual…and emotionally supported.

The Second Home:

  • This covers the primary, secondary and tertiary definitions of homelessness

The Third Home:

  • This is the larger community where our first and second homes are located.

(Reynolds. F. 2011)


Information was derived from Government publications:-

  • Homelessness in NSW (Simon, 2009),
  • A Way Home: Reducing Homelessness in NSW (NSW Government, 2009)
  • The Road Home: A National Approach to Reducing Homelessness (Australian Government, 2008). Interviews were conducted with three people who have experienced homelessness.
  • Interviews were also conducted with people working for The Big Issue and a long-term (Centrelink) Department of Human Services client.
homelessness from a grief and loss perspective
Homelessness From A Grief and Loss Perspective

“Grief is the normal but confusing cluster of ordinary human emotions arising in response to a significant loss, intensified and complicated by the relationship to the person or object.”

(Michell & Anderson, 1993)

meet brian
Meet Brian

“When you don’t have a place to live, you eat a larger amount of food and still feel hungry because you just eat it for the sake of the survival and you never enjoy eating it. But if you have a place to call ‘home’ you feel happy with only a loaf of bread.” - Brian.


 “I was not happy at the time. I felt lost because when you knock on the door to ask for help nobody answers it and then they send you place to place…” –Brian

  • “The hospital was worse than living on the street because the staff at the hospital treated me as an animal. They locked me up there.” –Brian
  • Centrelink and Guardianship were able to advocate for Brian to obtain priority housing. The Bankstown Homeless Working Group was developed and were able to acquire long-term accommodation following the key principles of the ‘Housing First’ model.
  • “Pray when you are in difficult situation ask God to give you strength, go and see a Social Worker at Centrelink…they will help you to find a place to live. I’m very happy and grateful to the Social Workers of Centrelink who have provided me a sense of belonging to call home.” -Brian
moving forward
Moving Forward
  • Providing a person with a home offers dignity and fosters hope. Most importantly, the transformation of moving from homelessness into a home of one’s own begins a process of physical and psychological healing. Furthermore, a person’s status immediately changes from being regarded as an outcast to being a valued member of the community.

( Tsemberis, 2010)

the 5 stages of grief kubler ross model
The 5 Stages of GriefKubler-Ross Model
  • Denial – The "No, not me" stage
  • Anger/Resentment – The "Why me?" stage
  • Bargaining – The "If I do this, you'll do that" stage
  • Depression- The "It's really happened" stage
  • Acceptance – The "This is what happened" stage
psychodynamic theory
Psychodynamic Theory

Freud wrote his first paper on pathological mourning in 1917. The paper entitled: “Mourning and Melancholia” introduced the idea that mourning is not simply the loss of a loved object (and by this he meant person) but the loss of one's country, one's ideals, or one's home.

bowlby s attachment theory
Bowlby’s Attachment theory

In the context of homelessness Bowlby viewed grieving for the loss of a home as part of grief which he sees as having four phases:

  • numbing;
  • yearning and searching;
  • disorganisation and despair; and
  • Reorganisation.
dual process model strobe and schut
Dual process model (Strobe and Schut)

This model proposed two categories:

Loss-oriented coping:

With regard to homelessness, the loss is primarily the loss of the physical structure being the home.

Resoration-oriented coping:

The additional losses for a person experiencing homelessness can include the loss of “where we sleep, where we begin and end every day, where we store our belongings, where we socialise and interact with others” and a loss of the connection with the wider community.

(Reynolds, 2009)


“When we grieve, someone needs to hear our words and respond in a way that confirms the story we need to tell. It is the experience of mutuality that is created by our empathic response that transforms the loneliness of grief into communities of hope.”

(Anderson, 2010)

losing more than a home


Homelessness from a grief and loss perspective


I can’t believe my entire

Family have left me on my own


I’ll do anything if I can

Have somewhere to live…


How will I ever get

Anywhere in life…


I have found support

I think I am going to be ok


They have contacted my

Family and we are working

Through things…


I have somewhere to live.

I have the chance to be


  • Worden. J.W, (2009). Grief Counselling and Grief Therapy.
  • Bankstown City Council /Media Releases Jul 2011 retrieved on 08/09/2011
  • Allan. J, Peas.B & Briskman. L. (2003) Critical social work, ‘An Introduction to Theories and Practices’
  • Beyond Blue, Grief, Loss and Depression www.beyondblue.org.au/index.aspx?link_id=7.980&tmp
  • Kübler-Ross, E. (1969) On Death and Dying, Routledge,
  • Homelessness Research Project, Executive Report Summary www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/CommunityServices/Documents/researchproject_homelessness_stage2.DOC retrieved on 15/09/2011
  • Reynolds. F, (2007) www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/homelessnessservices/HomelessnessStrategy
  • Reynolds. F, (2011 ), CEO Mercy Foundation (Presentation Paper)
references continued
References Continued…
  • Madiant. J & Egan .R , (2004) ‘ Practice Skills in Social Work & Welfare’
  • Pash. L, (2011) ‘Social Worker and Educator, Sids and Kids organisation Sydney
  • MacKnee, C. M., & Mervyn. J, (2002). ‘Critical Incidents that Facilitate Homeless People's Transition off the Streets." Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless” no. 4, pp. 293-306.
  • (Michell & Anderson 1993, cited in Anderson .H, (2009), ‘Common grief, Complex Grieving’ 59: 127-136 )
  • Williams. N, ( 2011), Where The Heart Is: homelessness in Bankstown
  • Gorden. R, (2008), ‘(http://www.ch.org.au/parity/items/2008/04/00315’ retrieved on 15/09/2011
  • Tsemberis. S, (2010), Housing First, ‘The Pathways Model to End Homelessness for People with Mental Illness and Addiction’
  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2010
  • Anderson, H. (2010) Common Grief, Complex Grieving. Journal of Pastoral Psychology pp.127–136